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India’s minority watchdog needs teeth, says Sangliana

By Anto Akkara

Vice-chairman National Minority Affairs Commission Pu HT Sangliana.
Bangalore: A commission aimed at safeguarding the rights of religious minorities in India cannot be effective unless it is given judicial powers, says the politician who is helping to lead the watchdog body.
Hmar Tlomte Sangliana, a Christian who took over on December 15 as vice-chairperson of India’s autonomous National Commission for Minorities, said that “atrocities on minorities” — particularly Christians — are on the rise.
“But the NCM has been able to do hardly anything worthwhile except visiting [troubled] spots and making statements,” Sangliana told Ecumenical News International. “Only when the commission has adequate powers [can] we take the officials to task for their failure to perform their duty, and take remedial action.”
The NCM has six members representing India’s religious minorities: Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, Parsis, and Sikhs. Nearly 80 percent of the nation’s 1.2 billion people are Hindus.
A member of the Presbyterian Church from Mizoram state in northeast India, Sangliana said education is the key to countering increasing violence against Christians at the hands of Hindu extremists.
“There is lot of misunderstanding and fears. We need to remove these,” he said. His hope, he added, is “to educate others on what we are and what we are doing.”
Sangliana, who become a Christian at the age of eight, at the same time as his father, qualified for the Indian Police Service in 1967 and retired as southern Karnataka state’s head of police in 2004. Immediately after his retirement, the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party, made him its candidate from Bangalore for national parliamentary elections, to benefit from his popularity.
Though eyebrows were raised when as a practicing Christian, he joined hands with the BJP, Sangliana said upon his election that his aim was to transform the party from within and convert it to the “Bharatiya Jesus Party.”
However, with incidents of anti-Christian violence increasing in Karnataka state, he organized a protest march of Christians against atrocities in 2008.
Sangliana’s rift with the BJP leadership was complete when he voted for the coalition government led by the secular Congress party in a crucial vote of confidence on an Indo-U.S. nuclear energy agreement that also places India’s program under International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring.
He stood as a Congress party candidate in the 2009 parliamentary elections but lost to a BJP candidate.

By Anto Akkara

Vice-chairman National Minority Affairs Commission Pu HT Sangliana.
Bangalore: A commission aimed at safeguarding the rights of religious minorities in India cannot be effective unless it is given judicial powers, says the politician who is helping to lead the watchdog body.
Hmar Tlomte Sangliana, a Christian who took over on December 15 as vice-chairperson of India’s autonomous National Commission for Minorities, said that “atrocities on minorities” — particularly Christians — are on the rise.
“But the NCM has been able to do hardly anything worthwhile except visiting [troubled] spots and making statements,” Sangliana told Ecumenical News International. “Only when the commission has adequate powers [can] we take the officials to task for their failure to perform their duty, and take remedial action.”
The NCM has six members representing India’s religious minorities: Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Muslims, Parsis, and Sikhs. Nearly 80 percent of the nation’s 1.2 billion people are Hindus.
A member of the Presbyterian Church from Mizoram state in northeast India, Sangliana said education is the key to countering increasing violence against Christians at the hands of Hindu extremists.
“There is lot of misunderstanding and fears. We need to remove these,” he said. His hope, he added, is “to educate others on what we are and what we are doing.”
Sangliana, who become a Christian at the age of eight, at the same time as his father, qualified for the Indian Police Service in 1967 and retired as southern Karnataka state’s head of police in 2004. Immediately after his retirement, the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party, made him its candidate from Bangalore for national parliamentary elections, to benefit from his popularity.
Though eyebrows were raised when as a practicing Christian, he joined hands with the BJP, Sangliana said upon his election that his aim was to transform the party from within and convert it to the “Bharatiya Jesus Party.”
However, with incidents of anti-Christian violence increasing in Karnataka state, he organized a protest march of Christians against atrocities in 2008.
Sangliana’s rift with the BJP leadership was complete when he voted for the coalition government led by the secular Congress party in a crucial vote of confidence on an Indo-U.S. nuclear energy agreement that also places India’s program under International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring.
He stood as a Congress party candidate in the 2009 parliamentary elections but lost to a BJP candidate.